Downtown Eastside residents say they’re again being forced to do without an essential service after Canada Post stopped delivering mail to their homes.
This is the second time Canada Post has halted delivery service to East Hastings because mail deliverers say they don’t feel safe on the street. For six months during 2020, mail carriers also suspended service because the street was crowded and, they said, they couldn’t practise social distancing during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After The Tyee reported on the issue, Canada Post resumed mail delivery.
The current disruption started March 23 and applies to two blocks of East Hastings between Carrall and Main.
In an email to The Tyee, Canada Post said service has been suspended “due to health and safety concerns.” CTV News has reported that mail carriers “complained about seeing drug use, and being verbally assaulted.”
The Tyee also contacted the Canadian Union of Postal Workers for more details on what mail deliverers were experiencing, but did not hear back.
The sidewalks on the two blocks are crowded with people who are homeless, and who are often selling various items or buying and using drugs — all issues that stem from extreme poverty. Meanwhile, SRO hotels and social housing on the two blocks provide housing for hundreds of residents who live on income or disability assistance.
Those residents say assistance cheques and paycheques have been delayed by the mail delivery stoppage, making their financial situation even more precarious.
Tina Shaw works as an overdose prevention frontline worker and said she’s had trouble getting her paycheque on time. Shaw questions why she feels safe working in the neighbourhood late at night, but Canada Post mail deliverers are afraid to walk through a crowd of people to get to the entrance of her building.
“I do overdoses in the alley at 4 o'clock in the morning. I mean if I can go in the alley by myself and do overdoses and be perfectly safe, what is the problem on Hastings?” she asked.
Jo McRobb lives in the same building as Shaw, at 16 E. Hastings St. The building is operated by PHS Community Services Society, and McRobb said she’s noticed that other delivery services are still making deliveries.
“Amazon, UPS, Shaw cable, FedEx and countless home support nurses, doctors, mental health support people get around these three blocks every day,” she said. “But Canada Post can’t?”
Delayed cheques can also put residents in danger. When Canada Post stopped delivering to the East Hastings Street blocks in 2020, Liane Gladue told The Tyee she had to borrow money because a cheque was late — then had to pay double to repay the lender who had gotten very angry with her.
Canada Post says residents can collect their mail at a post office at 333 Woodland Drive, a 30-minute walk away. But residents will need to show government-issued identification — something many people who live in the Downtown Eastside often don’t have. People without identification also can’t pick up parcels that would have been delivered to buildings in the past.
Shaw said she has a suggestion for Canada Post.
“I’m getting to the point where I’m willing to apply to Canada Post and do these few blocks,” she said.
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